Welcome verdict

In a significant judgment, Pakistan’s supreme court has declared the emergency that former President Pervez Musharraf imposed in November 2007 as ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional.’ At that point in time, the emergency was imposed by Musharaff in his capacity as the army chief and not as president. Technically, this amounted to a military coup directed at the judiciary rather than the government. While the technicalities of the verdict may appear to be correct, its timing certainly suggests an element of political convenience. Today Musharaff is in political wilderness and the US is backing the fledgling democracy in Pakistan. Perhaps this is also a consideration that contributed to the outcome of such a verdict which will definitely help strengthen the democracy in Pakistan.

In reality, the verdict reflects the current political climate in the country which is hostile to the military and strong public sentiments against dictatorship. Earlier in 1972 also Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was able to capture political power from Yahya Khan only because the Pakistan army had been weakened after its military defeat against India. Even at that time the Supreme Court of Pakistan had ruled that the martial law imposed by Yahya Khan was ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional.’ But the court’s verdict came only after Yahya Khan had been ousted from power. However, the judicial decision did not prevent subsequent military coups only five years later by General Zia ul Haq and much later by Musharraf.

Apparently the verdict against Musharaff is a shrewd political move. It has the potential to strengthen the political leadership’s position vis a vis the army by incorporating the necessary constitutional safeguards. At the same time it does not offend the all powerful Pakistan army. Pakistan Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has clarified that the supreme court is competent to declare former Musharraf’s Nov 3, 2007 steps as unconstitutional, but it cannot award him punishment because it falls under separate rules of law. The historic verdict against a former army chief may prima facie appear that Pakistan’s supreme court is independent of the executive. But whether or not it will stand the test of time will be known only in the event of another military takeover if and when it occurs.

Only then will the effectiveness of the supreme court as a true pillar of democracy be established in Pakistan.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry